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Chapter 22
The Reconciliation

Their arms entwined around each other, Prince William and Kate Middleton seemed oblivious to the world as they danced seductively to their favourite song, the BodyRockers’ ‘I Like the Way you Move’.

Throwing caution to the wind, the couple kissed passionately on the Perspex dance floor backstage at Wembley Stadium, leaving VIP guests at the Concert for Diana without any doubt that they had rekindled their romance. After their floorshow, they retired to a discreet corner of the room, lit by candles and scattered with rose petals, where they spent the remainder of the evening sitting on a white leather sofa, hidden by drapes, holding hands, whispering in each other’s ears and sipping mojitos.

That public display of affection, in the dwindling hours of 1 July 2007 – so out of character for the prince – marked a new beginning for the young couple, who had broken up 12 weeks earlier over William’s failure to commit. Hours earlier, William, 25, gave no hint that the romance was back on track as he strolled onto the stage with his brother Harry, 22, to introduce the concert, a tribute to their late mother on what would have been her 46th birthday. ‘This evening is about all that our mother loved in life: her music, her dancing, her charities, and her family and friends,’ he said, before introducing Duran Duran, one of Diana’s favourite bands, telling the crowd to ‘have an awesome time’.

It was the first time that William and Kate had been seen together in public since their romance had disintegrated, sparking speculation that they had settled their differences. But although they were both in the royal box, they sat separately, two rows apart, and did not look at each other once.

The Concert for Diana, which raised £1.6 million for charity, was organised by Princes William and Harry as a tribute to their mother on the tenth anniversary of her death in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. They invited 23 acts, spanning their own and their mother’s generation, including the English National Ballet, to perform at the gig, which was beamed to an audience of 15 million in Britain and 500 million worldwide. It was an unusual combination of acts, but that did not seem to deter a crowd of 63,000 people paying £45 for tickets to watch Diana’s favourites Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry and Duran Duran on stage alongside American hip hop artists Kanye West and P Diddy and British soul singer Joss Stone.

Sir Elton John, who wrote the Princess Diana tribute song ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’, opened the gig with a rendition of his classic ‘your Song’ before introducing the two princes to the audience. To a standing ovation, William and Harry took to the stage. ‘Hello, Wembley!’ shouted Harry. After paying tribute to their mother and introducing the next act, the princes took their places in the royal box alongside other royals of their generation: their cousins Beatrice and Eugenie, Zara Phillips and her boyfriend Mike Tindall, the England rugby player. While William carefully avoided Kate, who was wearing a white Issa trench coat, Harry sat next to his girlfriend Chelsy, 21, and gave her a kiss. The trio danced and clapped as Nelly Furtado belted out her song ‘Say It Right’. The only hint that the couple’s relationship was back on course was when the television cameras panned to Kate happily singing along to Take That’s ‘Back for Good’.

However, afterwards, at the £250,000 after-show extravaganza, at which guests downed raspberry or cappuccino vodka jellies and dined on oysters, lobster and crab, while acrobats and dancers writhed in cages around the room and tropical fish swam below the dance floor, it was a different matter. William and Kate arrived and left separately, but inside they could not be torn apart.

Studiedly ignoring Kate while he chatted to Joss Stone, William made a beeline for her the moment she took to the dance floor, clasping her from behind and planting a kiss on her lips. They were together for the rest of the evening, announcing to the world that they had revived their relationship.

News of the royal break-up had first leaked out on Saturday, 14 April 2007, three days after Kate and William’s last phone conversation, following which she had fled the capital for the sanctuary of her parents’ home in Berkshire with a pile of paperwork and a mission to keep her head down. Both her siblings were at home that weekend – it was James’s 20th birthday on the Sunday – and the family rallied around. In an ironic twist, Pippa, 23, who was about to sit her finals at Edinburgh University, had separated from her own aristocratic boyfriend, J.J. Jardine Patterson, the wealthy heir of a Hong Kong banking family, because of his refusal to commit, and the two sisters comforted each other.

But on James’s birthday, the family awoke to a series of anonymous attacks in the Sunday newspapers suggesting that Kate would never be accepted by the royal family – and William’s aristocratic circle – because of her mother Carole’s middle-class upbringing and lack of breeding. It was a cruel character assassination of a family that epitomises Middle England and a woman who, like many others in the countryside, enjoys a game of tennis, riding her horse and walking the family’s golden Labrador. Harking back to Nancy Mitford’s 1954 essay ‘The English Aristocracy’, the reports suggested that William’s upper-crust friends apparently sneered at her non-U (U meaning upper class) use of ‘toilet’ and ‘pardon’ (as opposed to ‘lavatory’ and ‘what’) and cringed at her chewing gum during William’s passing-out ceremony at Sandhurst. It was later revealed that she was chewing a nicotine substitute, although, of course, to those who wished to criticise her for it, this was no excuse for the breach of etiquette. Another faux pas was supposedly greeting the Queen with the words ‘Pleased to meet you’ instead of ‘Hello, Ma’am’, but Carole had never been introduced to the monarch.

Sensing a public-relations disaster, the palace immediately distanced itself from the stories, blaming Fleet Street for the furore. But the royals have not always been above snobbery – the Queen’s confidant Lord Charteris once memorably described the Duchess of york as ‘vulgar, vulgar, vulgar, and that is that’, and Prince Charles has been known to despair that people no longer ‘know their place’ – so it is impossible to judge where the stories came from.

In any case, Prince William was so horrified by the vitriol levelled at Carole that he telephoned his former girlfriend to reassure her that his friends were not behind the attack. That telephone conversation, four days after they had broken up, would be the first tentative step towards a reunion.

Within 24 hours, when William had returned to his barracks in Bovington, Kate decided that she too had to brave the world. Her eyes hidden behind dark glasses, she finally emerged from the comforting walls of her parents’ house at 10.15 a.m. to be driven up to London by James. Dressed in jeans – and wearing a brave face – she popped into her flat in Chelsea to pick up her tennis racquet, a symbol that proved her life would not be grinding to a halt. The accessories buyer then dashed into her office in Kew, south-west London, to collect some paperwork before heading back to her parents’ home. Her defiant appearance that day sent a message to the world that she refused to wallow in self-pity.

Kate spent another few days in Berkshire, ignoring the crescendo of speculation over the break-up, nursing her broken heart and reading letters of support – she is estimated to have received more than 300 from as far afield as Australia – while the world waited to see what she would do next. The public-relations supremo Max Clifford estimated that, as the only girlfriend ever to have lived with a future king, she could earn more than £5 million from her story – but Kate was far too dignified to kiss and tell.

By Thursday, after a week of compassionate leave, Kate felt confident enough to return to London and resume her old lifestyle, determined to show the prince just what he was missing. That evening, after spending the day at work, she met some friends at La Bouchée, a restaurant in Fulham, before turning up at Mahiki, where William had been drowning his sorrows six days before. It was a spectacular PR stunt – the first in a series of textbook manoeuvres that could have been designed to attract the prince’s attention and show him that she was quite capable of coping very well alone. Wearing a £45 minidress from Lipsy with long boots, and flashing some thigh and cleavage, her appearance at the bar, where she drank a Jack Daniel’s and Coke with the club’s marketing director and William’s close friend Guy Pelly, could hardly have gone unnoticed. She spent most of the evening on the dance floor before leaving the club at 2.30 a.m.

One of the men she danced with that night, architect Alex Shirley-Smith, was smitten. ‘She flicked her hair and looked over her shoulder at me,’ he told the Daily Mail afterwards. ‘The next thing I knew she had twirled backwards towards me so her back was up against me. She started doing some very sexy moves and she was absolutely gorgeous. She was a great dancer. Then she was snatched away by a really drunk guy, who I think was one of her friends. He probably thought he was trying to rescue her, but as he pulled her away, she winked at me and I knew she was flirting.’ He went on to recount that later that night, as the song ‘Unbelievable’ by EMF came on: ‘We naturally gravitated towards each other and Kate stepped forward and looked at me cheekily, put her hands on my shoulders and we both sang the rest of the song to each other while we danced.’

A week later, on 26 May, Kate was out on the town again, at William’s old favourite Boujis, well and truly embracing the life of a singleton. Wearing a black minidress and boots, she joined friends at a Thai restaurant in Chelsea, before going on to the club. William could not have failed to notice.

In the aftermath of a break-up, another clichéd response is to get fit and lose weight, and Kate was no exception. But instead of spending hours in the gym, she joined The Sisterhood, a female rowing crew who were planning to cross the English Channel in a dragon boat to raise money for charity. They had challenged their male rivals The Brotherhood to race the 21 miles across the Channel from Dover to Cap Griz Nez, near Calais, and had been training since the previous November. Kate was one of two helmswomen.

Led by Emma Sayle, 29, who had gained a reputation for being ‘the poshest swinger in town’, the group was never going to fade into obscurity. She had invited a motley crew, many of whom had controversial backgrounds, to join The Sisterhood.

Emma, whose father is former diplomat Colonel Guy Sayle oBE, had been four years above Kate at Downe House. She had attracted notoriety as director of operations at swingers’ club Fever and founder of Killing Kittens, a company that organises sex parties. Her best friend Amanda Cherry, 29, another member of the team, caused a huge scandal at Downe House when, shortly after leaving, she had an affair with her former politics tutor Ian Goodridge, more than 20 years her senior. He left his wife for the 19 year old and the two married.

Billing themselves as ‘an elite group of female athletes, talented in many ways, toned to perfection, with killer looks, on a mission to keep boldly going where no girl has gone before’, The Sisterhood’s training sessions on the River Thames near Chiswick and Putney became a magnet for the paparazzi.

Kate had been invited to join the group by Alicia Fox-Pitt, 26, the sister of olympic three-day eventer William Fox-Pitt, and one of her oldest friends. Alicia’s older sister Laurella was also in the team. The Fox-Pitt sisters, who had been at Marlborough with Kate, had been brought up on the family estate, Knowlton Court, on the outskirts of Canterbury in the Kent countryside. Like their brother, they are both talented riders, but while Alicia juggles private tutoring with studying to become a vet, Laurella is a keen kickboxer and aspiring actress.

The fourth old Marlburian in the crew was Bean Sopwith, 26, who had studied archaeology at oxford. A trainee stuntwoman, she had appeared in Jack osbourne’s television series Adrenaline Junkie. Bean had had a serious climbing accident four years earlier, falling 30 ft down a Welsh cliff face. She nearly lost her hand, but not only did she make a full recovery, she went on to take up freefall skydiving.

Kate’s involvement with the team raised eyebrows at the palace, but at that stage she was revelling in her new freedom. ‘We’ve been training three times a week,’ commented Emma. ‘Kate is extremely fit and very strong, so as long as she can commit to the rest of the training sessions, she’ll be in the boat.’

Around the same time as she began toning up her body, Kate’s look began to grow ever more polished and she revealed a sense of style that would not have been out of place in fashion bible Vogue. Now a sample size eight, and getting regular haircuts at the salon of celebrity stylist Richard Ward – a favourite of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Isabella Hervey and Lisa Snowdon – she was ranked number eight in the society magazine Tatler’s list of best-dressed women. Geordie Greig, its editor at the time, said of the placing: ‘Kate has not put a foot wrong. She appears modest and beautiful, and is liked by the press. There is a breezy unpretentiousness about how she looks and what she wears. The perfect princess in waiting.’

Kate also discovered her designer label of choice, Issa, whose jersey wrap dresses have clad the figures of the Hollywood starlets Scarlett Johanssen and Keira Knightley. It was in designer Daniella Issa Helayel’s top-floor studio in Fulham that she first spotted the Lucky dress, inspired by a vintage baby gown, with puff sleeves and a short skirt, which she apparently has in every colour, and it was there that she bought her outfit for the Concert for Diana. Daniella has maintained that Kate has no official connection with the company, although she brings invaluable publicity. ‘She is not an ambassador for Issa,’ she said discreetly, ‘and it’s not that she gets all these freebies. We have friends in common, and we’re fortunate that the dresses suit her so well.’

By the end of May, Kate’s younger sister Pippa, considered the racier of the two, had finished her finals and moved down to London, where the two girls became some of the most sought-after guests on the social scene.

While Kate had climbed the social ladder because of her royal connections, Pippa had become a member of the elite country-house set, dating heir J.J. Jardine Patterson and sharing a student flat with the Duke of Roxburghe’s son Ted Innes-Ker and George Percy, heir to the Duke of Northumberland. Already snobbishly known in some circles as ‘the Wisteria Sisters’, Kate and Pippa were soon dubbed ‘the Sizzler Sisters’ by Tatler, which described them as ‘very determined’ young women.

The sisters’ first appearance together was at the society jewellers Asprey on 15 May, when award-winning author Simon Sebag Montefiore invited them to the launch of his book Young Stalin. There they mixed with an elevated crowd that included Simon’s sister-in-law Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the writers Plum Sykes and William Shawcross, newscaster Emily Maitlis and Conservative MP (and friend of Prince Charles) Nicholas Soames. Two days later, Kate was back on the dance floor at Boujis, with her younger sister in tow. After partying with actresses Anna Friel and Mischa Barton, they left the club hand in hand at 3 a.m., walking part of the way home, which ensured that they were photographed together.

Although friends rallying around William suggested that his ex’s high profile was ‘driving him up the wall’, Kate’s armoury of tactics appeared to be working, as he made the first tentative steps towards a reconciliation. Missing his former girlfriend and realising that he had made a mistake, he persuaded Kate to meet him at his apartment in Clarence House on 26 May, the first in a series of trysts during which they talked over the separation.

However, enjoying her new-found freedom, Kate kept William guessing, being spotted at Mahiki four days later with several eligible men. Wearing a flimsy red top and white trousers, she arrived at the club’s Johnny Cash theme night on the arm of Henry Ropner, son of the shipping tycoon Sir John, who lived in a £1 million flat in Chelsea. Henry, who had gone to school with William and dated his old flame Jecca Craig, had known Kate since he was a geography student at Edinburgh University. Inside the club, she sipped the aptly named cocktail Good-Time Girl and danced with Jamie Murray Wells, the millionaire founder of Glasses Direct. She left the club with estate agent Charles Morshead, who bore a remarkable similarity to William.

But, although Kate was said to be keen to ‘live life to the max’, she was not looking for romance – because she already had her sights elsewhere. She finally succumbed to William’s charms once again on 9 June – ten weeks after they had broken up and two weeks after they had their first tentative drink – accompanying her former boyfriend to a raucous mess party in his barracks to celebrate the end of his gruelling course as a troop leader. Entitled ‘Freakin’ Naughty’, the party, complete with bouncy castle and paddling pool, was packed with guests dressed up as naughty nuns, doctors and nurses, but William could not take his eyes off Kate. After chatting to her all night, he danced intimately with her before kissing her in the middle of the crowded throng. He took her back to his private quarters in the early hours of the morning.

Even then, Kate did not stop partying, going five days later to Raffles nightclub, which describes itself as ‘one of the last bastions of decadence and debauchery’ and was founded by an old Etonian friend of Princess Margaret. Three days later, on 17 June, while William was at the Trooping of the Colour with his family, Kate flew out to Ibiza for a holiday from the social whirl. She stayed in a five-bedroom villa on the south-west of the island with a party of friends including her brother James and her school friend Emilia d’Erlanger, also a close friend of Prince William. After they arrived, the group headed straight for the Blue Marlin bar, an exclusive venue overlooking the Cala Jondal bay in San José. During the trip, Kate topped up her tan in preparation for what would turn out to be the highlight of her social season.

It was 30 June 2007, the day before the Concert for Diana, and speculation was mounting over William and Kate’s first public appearance since they had broken up. Maintaining her legendary cool, Kate ignored the gossip and donned an Issa dress to spend the afternoon at Wimbledon, where – when rain did not stop play – she watched the 2004 champion Maria Sharapova annihilate her Japanese opponent in straight sets. That night, under cover of darkness, she sneaked into Clarence House for one last secret tryst, going to extraordinary lengths not to be spotted. Leaving her home in Kensington around 9 p.m., she parked her Audi in the car park of a Mayfair hotel around midnight, walking into the palace on foot so as not to be seen. An hour and three quarters later, one of the palace aides picked the car up and drove it into the grounds. The following day, she sat in the royal box, cool as a cucumber, as if nothing had happened. It was only at the after-show party that the couple gave the game away.

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